Dartmouth at Play = Awesome

(l to r): Sam Beattie, Oge Young, Dave Roberts, Michelle Favaloro, Justin Gary, and Tracy Hurley respond to provocative audience questions at Dartmouth at Play '12

Held the Friday of Green Key weekend, one of the busiest times of the year on campus, our first annual Dartmouth at Play event was a smashing success.

Computer and console games have emerged as a significant cultural form; Dartmouth at Play, Dartmouth’s first Alumni gaming event, celebrates those alumni who work in the game industries. It might be compelling for readers new to the significance of games to know that since 2005, the US digital games industry has outsold Hollywood box office sales; ticket sales were $10.20 billion in 2011, while the Digital Game Industry in the US generated $16.6. This figure is expected to grow to a $70 billion industry worldwide by 2015. (Europe $18.9B (2007) Asia $14B (2006) Japan $6.26B)

Aside from economics, perhaps more interesting is the way the digital game industry has emerged as an attractive place for inventors and innovators alongside the ‘traditional’ play industries of board games, card games and toys. “Analog” game industries seem to have held their own during the rise of things digital, with sales roughly around $808 million in 2008. When factored into the larger toy industry, this figure increases: the US toy manufacturing industry includes about 700 companies and has annual revenue of $20 billion, equal to that of the fashion industry.

So why Dartmouth, and why now?

Dartmouth has a long tradition with play, creativity, and games. Yes, Dr. Seuss graduated from Dartmouth (1925), and last Friday marked the naming of Dartmouth’s medical school (the nation’s fourth oldest) as The Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

But there is more!  Cranium inventor Richard Tait is an alum, as are David Roberts, the senior VP and general manager of PopCap, Brian Goldner, the CEO of Hasbro, and a great number more. Gamer and entrepreneur Justin Gary founded Gary Games (Maker of Ascension), Michelle Favaloro directs among others the Marvel brand line at Habro, and Sam Beattie is a game designer at Zynga. All of the panelists discussed the practicalities of working in these fast-moving fields and theorized about what is coming for games and play of the future.

Debates ranged from the link between an interest in sci fi and gender. How do we break down the barriers of gender and gaming? Dave Roberts noted that we need more universally appealing games. Both analog and digital games professionals noted that 2% of the audience funds the majority of profit. People who have the most fun will pay the most, rather than “tricking” players into paying more during the play of their games.

Following the panel discussion was a short reception, where students engaged the panelists one-on-one and asked about the industry, design, and recent films and books read. We’re already planning for next year’s event!